Costa shipwreck captain speaks in court for first time

Schettino defends actions with expert witnesses

Costa shipwreck captain speaks in court for first time

(ANSA) - Grosseto, October 18 - Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino spoke for the first time in court at a defense hearing on Thursday, defending the maneuver he ordered after crashing against a reef as well as a series of other actions he said he took at the time of the shipwreck, according to accounts during a recess in proceedings. Prosecutor Francesco Verusio had said that bringing the ship so close to shore - a major life-saving maneuver - was not thanks to Schettino, but to the "hand of the good God", the forward movement of the ship and favorable weather conditions. "It wasn't (just) a maneuver, it was a decision," Schettino later told TG1 television news. Schettino was reportedly very "combative" toward expert witnesses regarding his behavior at the helm of the ship during Thursday's hearing. Schettino had requested authorization to speak directly to the expert witnesses, permission granted by the presiding judge, Valeria Montesarchio. Schettino's defense team also presented 200 challenges to the prosecution's technical assessment of the shipwreck. The court is assessing whether to indict Schettino and a number of others on criminal charges related to the Costa Concordia cruise liner that ran aground on a Tuscan island in January, killing 32. Schettino is under investigation for multiple manslaughter, abandoning his post before the evacuation of all 4,200 passengers and crew had been completed, and failing to communicate properly with maritime authorities. Schettino's second in command, Ciro Ambrosio, officer Salvatore Ursino and the head of the Costa Cruises fleet, Roberto Ferrarini, are also among a group under investigation.

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